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Not paying a ticket would not make it a felony. A traffic incident is an infraction, at worst a misdemeanor. If you dont pay, you get a warrant put out for you, but it doesnt make it a more serious offense.
EDIT... I am just now seeing the second part of your question... no you are not getting the full story.
It is possibel if he repeadedly drove without a license he could get a felony charge. But if he has a hardship, he probably isnt there yet.
There is something else